Out of the Shadows (version 2.0) -- Epilogue
A "Shadows of Destiny" Revamp Fic
(Shadows of Destiny is copyrighted to Konami)
Cold. Unexpectedly cold, considering the time he was intending to go was mid-spring. Surrounded by snow and… "Oh god. Not you again." The movie guy. Oleg. What's going on here? Why… Oh, wait, Miriam… Am I needed to save her, still? He'd done so so many times in other lives – perhaps it was necessary for some reason to do so here. Not that he really needed it to be necessary. She'd been a nice lady, too nice to die at some assassin's bullet. Too nice to lose her new baby... He talked, hurriedly, "Make a movie about Time Travel… A man trying to find out his own killer, a suspense thriller… romance… doesn't matter. Can I go now?"
Oleg's stunned expression as Eike ran off was priceless. Especially considering the words he heard the young movie producer mutter. "But I didn't ask him anything. Still… Fascinating… Yes, yes… I'll do it!" Eike would have been lost in a fit of hysterical giggles if he didn't know he had a place he had to be.
That was one thing he'd have to grant about the boy. He thought fast when he had to. Moved fast too. Those long legs of his are… impressive. He felt the faintest of envies for that human frame and human strength, but only the faintest. He had gifts that – usually – made up for his other lacks.
Long legs carried the young man forward as fast as they could. Most of the time they were a nuisance, awkward, requiring difficult contortions to bend comfortably when sitting and often causing him to stumble when he misjudged a step. Right now, though, they were a blessing, allowing him to rush down the street where he knew Miriam was likely to turn and be walking with her baby. There… The honey gold hair and warmly wrapped form was unmistakable – he'd run after her so often. So close to the moment, to the place…
He didn't really need the voice in his mind to know what he had to do. A rapid tackle brought Miriam down just as a shot rang out.
Child flying through the air. Tiny body flailing as it flew. He reached out through each moment, careful not to allow the baby gather enough momentum to damage him and caught her, feeling himself thrown backwards – into the wall. Rolling through the snow Cold… too cold… and managed, somehow, to come up to a sitting position. No sign of the shooter, but then there never was. I swear, if I ever find out who did it…
He leaned against the tree, knowing he didn't have to do more, feeling Dana's tiny warmth against his chest, feeling spreading wetness. Oh… lovely. Do you have to do that every time you brat? He sighed. It seemed some things, like being barfed on by a squalling, kicking, little monster of a baby, simply couldn't be changed. Though there's one thing I'm not doing again. Eike can come and get her. No carting the brat around and dropping her into a car because he couldn't manage the weight any longer. Not when Eike was there to take her back to her family.
Eike sat up. "Are you all right?" he asked the woman lying on the ground amid the snow. People were approaching, the excitement of the moment drawing them. He could see Eckart running towards them, panic in his voice and eyes.
"You… you saved me! You…" Miriam's blue eyes met his with the expression he'd seen so many times. Relief, gratitude suddenly changing to fear as she realized, "DANA… the baby! Where…"
Eike glanced around, getting to his feet and half-ignoring the Eckarts' babble over each other and their missing child. Where was she? Surely Homunculus wouldn't be so cruel as to… A flash of dark moved out of the corner of his eye, in the small cul-de-sac where he'd once found Homunculus after Hugo had revealed himself. Like before, the thin form was leaning against the tree. Like before, his body was bent over its angular knees in an attitude of exhaustion. Unlike before, there was something in his lap. Something that moved and squirmed and… "Wait here," he told the two in front of him. "I'll find her."
So tired. Even this little bit of effort… He'd never bothered to catch her like that before. The child had been injured in those other times, though, and there was no reason to repeat it. Not that I care. I just don't want to hear another of Eike's patented lectures on ethics and morality. Steps were approaching, moving quietly, tentatively. "Oh. Hello Eike. How are you doing? I'm doing absolutely lousy, thank you for asking."
Eike knelt, trying to peer into Homunculus' face, uncertain of what to say. He'd seen the patterns in the snow as he'd approached, the point where his creator had hit, the way he'd rolled into the cul-de-sac. "Are you going to be all right? That was risky. You could have hurt yourself."
"Oh for… I can't do anything to please you, can I?" Homunculus looked up and, despite the words, there was a faint tone of humor behind them that told Eike he wasn't nearly so annoyed as he might seem. His face, Eike noted with relief, showed no sign of stress, no sign of any damage that would destroy him before he could put the finishing touches on the loop by creating Eike. "Take her, would you? She's already thrown up on me once," Homunculus added, plaintively.
Managing not to laugh outright, Eike picked up the baby. "Come on, Dana. Let's get you home. Then it's my turn." He paused, worriedly, "That is if you don't need any help…"
"No… I'll be fine. You go on. I'll meet you in the square."
Hugo had turned out amazingly better, even likable in much the same way Eike was. Coincidence? Perhaps, perhaps not. There were ties of genetics and memory and blood itself to tie everyone involved together. The young man had followed in his father's footsteps and had succeeded at last in the quest. It had taken him years, but determination was his strongest suit and with a goal as worthy as the one he had, nothing could hold him back. If anything, his greatest difficulty in ensuring Hugo succeeded was keeping the boy from killing himself with overwork.
With Hugo's effort completed, there was little more to be done and he had done it, choosing his time carefully so as to create no extra ripples in the stream. Now there was just one last person to satisfy. Not for the loop. That was set, solid and flowing smoothly. The soft murmur of time flowing around him throughout his existence was sweet and comforting, the voice of a lover when the quarrels were over, when all was forgiven. Oh dear, how very poetic, he mocked himself. Even if it were true.
One last person to satisfy…
The timestream deposited him into semi-darkness and – momentarily – he thought he'd been returned to Homunculus' realm. Then he realized where he was. The town square. Light blocked by the tree that I didn't have to prevent existing… No more flowers. No more fugly statue… He stared around, wondering what to do next.
He spun around and saw the figure seated in the branch above him. "Someday I'll figure out what it is about you and high places."
"I'm small. It's easier to avoid being stepped on. And to look down on people." The smile that accompanied the explanation was amused as Homunculus stepped down from the branch of the tree and walked down non-existent steps to stand looking up at Eike. "You, especially, are hard to talk to from this position. You strain my neck."
A quick, embarrassed, grin And why should I be embarrassed anyway? "Blame my height on Wagner. If he weren't so blessed tall, I wouldn't be, now would I?"
"No, you wouldn't." Homunculus smiled back. "I suppose I could blame Hugo, too, since it was he who made me so tiny. But then, this shell can only be stretched so far."
Eike eyed his creator. "That's a new look." Homunculus had ditched the only costume he'd ever worn in favor of a simple black turtleneck and jeans with red leather jacket.
"Yes," the smile broadened and Homunculus looked pleased as he examined his sleeve. "I thought I might as well get with the times, as it were. Celebrate our movement into the next century – at long last – with a new wardrobe. There is, after all, absolutely no reason why I should look like something out of the Arabian Nights anymore."
" Is it really over, then?"
A small chuckle at the plaintive query. "That depends. Are you planning on lying down in the middle of the road for those two young idiots to run over you, again?" Eike's glare was palpable and elicited a surprising, "Sorry, sorry. But I never could understand why you – or rather why that Eike – did that."
"I hardly know myself. Stress, probably. Wiped out what few braincells I… he… had left." Eike shrugged. "You haven't answered my question."
"Oh. Of course." The sweet smile returned full force. "Of course it's not over. It's only just beginning." Ruby eyes turned and gazed gently at him. "The loop is smooth, however, set and – given no stupidity on our part by attempting to make further adjustments – stable enough to stay that way."
Relieved, Eike took a deep breath of air. He was definitely not planning on lying down in the roadway to celebrate it, but he did feel a great deal of pleasure in the simple fact of being alive. "So, what next?"
"How should I know? Or if I do, why should I tell you? Do you want to play time travel games with the future as well as the past?" Homunculus gazed off, seeming to take as much pleasure in the moment as Eike.
"Hmph. Not a chance – I never even want to hear the term "timetravel" again. Okay, but… Oh, never mind. I'll figure something out. Wonder if Mr. Eckart needs help at the museum… Or is it a library…" The sound of girlish laughter interrupted his babble. Glancing up, he saw three girls. That rather bizarrely dressed woman from the square, the candy shop owner and… Dana. He stared at her, amazed at the difference. Blonde hair so like and unlike Miriam's. Blue eyes like… Like Helena's… More importantly, the faint expression of sour dissatisfaction gone entirely from her face. She looked up and saw him and stopped, a smile of pure friendliness on her face. So… beautiful.
"Don't drool, Eike. Go and talk to her. She gives you such a look. If that isn't an invitation to the movies, I don't know what is."
"I'll be back at the house. If you think about it you'll know which house that is. The key's under the mat. Try not to stay out too late, would you?"
Watching the boy hurry off, he shook his head. It might not be possible to give Eike a proper past, but what could be done, would be. He owed that child. Owed him more than Eike was likely to ever fully comprehend. Owed him and would pay the debt as best he could. He looked into his – their – future and, throughout time, smiled sadly. It wouldn't be perfect. Time did not allow for perfect lives. But it would be a good life. A long, reasonably happy life, even without interference. That would have to be enough. And, when I think about it, it is.